COLORADO SPRINGS — After months of uncertainty during the pandemic, more people are now making those big summer vacation plans they've been waiting on. It's exciting, but if you're planning on staying in a vacation rental News 5 has a warning about how fraudsters are looking to take advantage of you.
Recently News 5 reported on the uptick in home rental scams in southern Colorado costing people thousands of dollars. Well, in this case, you could end up on vacation, out of money, and without a place to stay.
Just a few months ago many baseball fans were making the trip to Arizona for spring training, just to find out their home rental for the week wasn't a rental at all. Trish and Steven have owned their Arizona home for more than a decade. The couple says they had visitors with luggage coming to their door, but they weren't expecting anyone.
"We had the unfortunate pleasure of telling people there was no room for them available," said Trish. "We put up a sign that says this is not an Airbnb. You've been scammed. Please report it to Airbnb."
It turns out someone listed their full-time home as a vacation rental on Airbnb using fake pictures but sending travelers to their address. Many had already paid and were not happy to find they had no place to stay.
Scams like this have come across the desk of investigators at the Colorado Springs Police Department and often people didn't check reviews on the place they were renting and they weren't familiar with the policies of who they thought they were renting from.
"Be very familiar with how Airbnb works because you can see someone could easily take an Airbnb logo and use that in an email to you, or that kind of thing. So be very aware of how their procedures work," said Sgt. Joe Matiatos of the CSPD Financial Crimes Unit.
Here's some expert advice to help you in finding a real vacation rental. First, make sure it's not too good to be true. You can do that by checking prices for comparable listings, a really low price could be a red flag. Next, research and read reviews and see if the rental website provides a history for the host.
Airbnb says it does give full refunds in some cases and hosts don't receive full payments until 24 hours after their guests successfully check-in.
So, make sure you don't pay outside the framework of the rental site you're using.